If it’s the season to be jolly…
…then why are there so many stressed, beleaguered couples walking around? Is it more fitting to say, ‘Tis the season to feel tense, frustrated and constantly on-the-go?
Whether you’re feeling totally overwhelmed or slightly frustrated during the holiday season, it’s easy to lose perspective about what’s most important and valuable to you–your relationships.
Here are five points to help you (and your spouse/partner) stay grounded during all that’s going on this busy time of year:
5 Marriage/Relationship Help Tips to Help You Survive the Holidays
1. Don’t lose sight of your true priorities
What does the holiday season mean to you and your spouse/partner? Give this question some serious thought because your answer is what ultimately should shape and guide your holiday experience.
Ironically, the gift of love (coming together with loved ones) can easily be forgotten this time of year. Wherever you live, it’s difficult to ignore the rabid commercialism and materialism that have invaded the holidays. Holidays are big business and many of us are programmed to believe that the makings of a perfect holiday are found at your favorite retail store.
This creates a pressured, frenetic experience that can place significant stress on couples and their marriage/relationship. So periodically stop, take a few deep breaths and ask each other what’s really important this time of year.
2. Create your own unique holiday rituals
Developing non-material rituals to express your love and appreciation is a powerful way to celebrate your marriage/relationship throughout the holiday season (and throughout the year). One of the most powerful rituals centers on gratitude. And how you express gratitude for your spouse/partner should be a reflection of his/her uniqueness and the meaning s/he holds for you. Be thoughtful and creative.
How can you show your gratitude this holiday season (non-material gratitude)?
3. Don’t become attached to an outcome at the expense of your relationship
You (or your partner) may have a particular vision of what the holidays should look like—a vision that really captures what the holidays mean to you. This is a good thing, right? Well it can be, but it can also cause you and your family undue stress.
Marital/relationship stress arises when a holiday vision is rigidly pursued and, in the process, the relationship gets trampled. One woman had the goal of bringing together family members who haven’t gotten along in years. This made her so tense and agitated (in anticipation of what might happen) that her mood began to negatively color her husband’s holiday experience. Ironically, her vision (unity in the family) caused estrangement between her and her spouse.
4. Ask for help and let go of control
Asking for help seems like a no-brainer, but for some of us, preparing for the holidays is a painful exercise in trying to maintain control. The mindset, “I am the only one who can do this the right way” will just overwhelm you, and as a result, overwhelm your loved ones.
Delegating tasks means just that—handing over responsibility to others so that one person doesn’t feel burdened. Delegating does not mean you hand over responsibility to your mate and then monitor his/her performance based on how you would accomplish the task! Acting in this way is a recipe for significant marital/relationship stress (and an unpleasant holiday experience).
5. Keep empathy alive this holiday season!
The holidays can mean different things to different people. Appreciating what it means to your spouse/partner can go a long way in staying emotionally connected to each other throughout the ups and downs of the season.
For example, for Christina the holidays are about seeing friends and family she rarely gets to spend time with—good food, reminiscing, and lots of laughs are tops on her holiday priority list. But for her husband Ben, the holidays hold very different associations due to his father’s life-long struggle with alcoholism (Ben shared that many childhood holidays were ruined because of his father’s excessive drinking).
Does this mean that Christina should forgo her holiday celebration? Of course not, but compassionately acknowledging Ben’s struggle allows him to feel understood and accepted by his wife (which helps him remain more present during the celebrations rather than emotionally tumbling into past painful memories).
Holding the above tips in mind can help you stay sane and enjoy this holiday season. Remember, at their core, holidays are about nurturing relationships!
Dr. Rich Nicastro